My best laid plans have a habit of going awry just lately. I have a long standing wish to do the backstage tour at the tiny and exquisite Georgian Theatre in Richmond, North Yorkshire. I reasoned that my November birthday, with the current unsettled weather, would be the perfect occasion.
Leaving home in the rain, I was delighted to find blue skies in Richmond. I went straight to the theatre for the hourly tour. But, no! The backstage tours finished yesterday, I was told. I have one of those faces which feelings rampage across- nothing is hidden. The receptionist hastened to assure me that the theatre was being readied for the upcoming production of “Calender Girls” and then panto season. Taking pity on me, she asked if I would like just a little peak behind the scenes. What could I say?
It looked nothing like this. All was in darkness save for a spotlight, which wandered around the stage looking for that perfect spot. The 18th century theatre is Grade 1 listed, and the oldest theatre still in its original form in the UK. The Woodland Scene in the above photo was painted soon after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, and is the oldest piece of theatrical scenery in Britain.
At least the weather was on my side. Richmond is a beautiful little market town with the River Swale running through it. The castle, with its imperious keep, towers 100 feet above. The town was founded by the Normans in 1071, with the castle at its heart. Narrow lanes or wynds link the wider streets. Wynd is the Old English word, meaning “to spiral”. Crossing the broad cobbled Market Place, inevitably, you are lured down to the river.
You can hear the thunder of the falls as you approach the corner. Once there, I always have to linger, mesmerised by the rush of water.
There’s always a bed of rocks for scrambling across, though I’m content just to look these days. Too easy to turn an ankle.
Here you have a choice. You can follow the river on either bank. If you stay on this path you can take the Drummer Boy walk to Easby Abbey. This day I wasn’t wearing suitable footwear and was happy to cross over the bridge to The Station.
Now this is a rather special place. It’s great for a cuppa, or maybe to pick up some books cheaply (as I did). It also has craft shops, and an icecream makers, and in Summer you can sit outside with your choice. What I especially like is the use of the old station building as an art gallery. Some very interesting exhibitions take place.
It’s great that this building has been so lovingly restored. The Heritage Centre in the Ticket Office tells how it came about. As I strolled through the town I had observed that the French restaurant, “Rustique”, in Finkle St., was open. Mondays are often closing day in these parts so I was very happy to return there for my celebration lunch. Very nice indeed.
Richmond has many interesting nooks and crannies, but today I’ve restricted myself to the riverside. If you would like to read more about the Wynds and the town itself, in my sidebar there’s a piece called Romantic Richmond and its Ivory Tower, which I wrote a couple of years ago. I often seem to find myself there in Autumn.
And the Georgian Theatre? I guess I’ll just have to settle for a production instead.